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Westport fitting end to last day of Sec. Kennealy's statewide housing tour

Posted on August 6, 2019


WESTPORT --- The final day of Secretary Mike Kennealy’s 8-day housing tour started off with lots of applause and emotion as Westport’s long-serving affordable housing trust member showed why local leadership is so important to getting housing done.

“You’ll see some affordable housing in town, but this is the first affordable housing that’s been done by the town,” said Liz Collins at grand opening ceremonies of Noquochoke Village on Aug. 6. “That’s what make this unique and lasting. Everyone deserves a home and if we all keep doing this, the world will be a better place.”

Speaking before a crowd of over 80 people in the development’s community room, Collins said she never doubted that this would happen during the 14 years she worked on the project. “It’s like getting on a bus,” she said. “There were a lot of bumps, but we just kept going.”

Collins and the town deserve recognition because Noquochoke Village was built on town land and was supported financially with both Community Preservation Act and local affordable housing trust funds from the Town of Westport. That’s why Lydia Scott of the The Community Builders – the developer of the project – announced near the end of the speaking program that the community room would be named after Liz Collins.

Noquochoke Village was built on seven acres of a 31-acre town site. The remaining land will be used as community space. The new development features seven wood-frame buildings and 50 mixed-income apartments for household incomes ranging from 30 to 100 percent of area median income. There are 30 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom rental homes in the development.

The ribbon cutting was the first stop on the last leg of the state’s summer tour of affordable housing developments funded by the Baker Administration. Spearheaded by Mike Kennealy, the state’s economic and housing secretary, the tour reached 17 communities and 25 affordable housing developments.

“What you learn doing a tour like this is that there are tremendous opportunities and challenges, and that it takes perseverance and collaboration at the state and local level to get projects like this done,” said Kennealy, two days after participating in another statewide tour – the Pan Mass Challenge, the two-day annual fund-raiser for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. “There’s a lot of creativity that happens to make these projects come together and the Town of Westport should be commended for what they’ve done.”

The $17.5 million development was financed primarily  with state and federal affordable housing tax credits, awarded by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). DHCD put in other state subsidy funds, including the state’s affordable housing trust fund, which is administered by MassHousing. The Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation provided early funding, as did MassDevelopment to clean up some oil on part of the site. Bank of America was the construction lender and equity investor.

The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) was involved at the beginning and end of this development, helping the town assess the land for its development potential and providing TCB with financing. Back in 2006 when the town first started looking at the property for housing, MHP’s community assistance team oversaw pre-development work and helped the town issue a Request for Proposals.

Various factors – including the recession – slowed progress for a few years before The Community Builders was selected by the town to develop the project. A longtime lender to TCB, MHP’s rental financing team is providing a $1.4 million, 40-year permanent loan. MHP has now made six loans to TCB totaling $9.24 million for the financing of 296 apartments in communities such as Holyoke, Provincetown, Worcester and Williamstown.

“Part of our core mission is to work with cities and towns,” said Clark Ziegler, MHP’s executive director. “We’ve worked with over 50 towns to help them utilize town land for housing. This project is a trifecta. It’s built on town land and it received CPA and affordable housing trust funds. This is the world MHP lives and works in and there’s no better example than Westport. This is exactly what every town should be doing.”

Besides Westport, other developments on EOHED's housing tour that received MHP community assistance and/or rental financing include Fruit Sever (Worcester),  Mason Square (Springfield), Little Pond Place (Falmouth), The Coolidge (Sudbury), Bedford Green (Bedford), Yarmouth Commons (Yarmouth) and 132 Chestnut Hill Ave. (Brighton).

For more information about MHP’s community assistance and rental financing programs, contact Rus Lodi at rlodi@mhp.net.